The photo above shows a close-up of the tubular flowers of wax currant as seen at the eastern end of Hog Lake to the east of Sprague, WA......April 29, 2006. Note the numerous gland-tipped hairs on the outer surface of the corolla.
Wax currant is a stiff and many-branched shrub with spreading to rounded growth from 0.5-1.5 meters high. The stems are unarmed and range from gray to reddish brown in color. The leaves alternate on the stems and are deciduous. The leave are small, ranging from 1.5-2.5 cm wide. The blades are kidney-shaped and have 3-5 indistinct lobes as well as toothed margins. The upper surface of the blade is waxy, and its species name of "cereum" means waxy.
The numerous, tiny flowers hang in small racemes of 2-8 flowers from the branches. The calyx is greenish-white, white, or pinkish-tinged and non-hairy to thickly haired and glandular. The flower is cylindrical (6-8 mm long) with the 5 lobes deltoid-ovate in shape, 1.5-3 mm long, and spreading to recurved. The petals are spatulate-obovate in shape and 1-2 mm long. The fruit is ovoid in shape and 6-8 mm long, slightly glandular, and dull to bright red.
The berries are edible but best used in jellies. The leaves are only modestly palatable. It is an attractive shrub for the arid woodland garden, and its berries are especially attractive.
Wax currant is found on warm, dry soils from the sagebrush desert to the edges of arid forests, and well up to subalpine ridges.
Wax currant may be found from British Columbia south along the eastern slopes of the Cascades to southern California, and east to Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.In the Columbia River Gorge, it may be found between the elevations of 100'-2800' from near the mouth of the Klickitat River east towards Haystack Butte.